Man of the match: Sami Khedira
Their opponents may have parked the bus, the trolley bus, the tram and the light aircraft in front of their goal, but Germany still made alarmingly easy work of Greece last night.
All week in the lead up to this fixture, everyone had tried awkwardly to avoid talking about the Eurozone crisis. By the end of this one-sided quarter-final meeting they were saying: don’t mention the four.
For all the plucky Greek resistance, there was a distinct inevitability about Germany's advance. They were competing in their fifth European Championship quarter-final, and they have gone on to the final on each previous occasion.
On this form, they are shoo-ins for a place in the Kiev showpiece in this tournament, too. Spain, the defending champions who face France in Donetsk tonight, will be more concerned than their insouciant boss, Vicente Del Bosque, will ever let on.
The Greeks had made a point of stating they were up for this fight in the build up to the game, and they made it clear they meant business from the off when Giorgos Samaras, the striker, clattered in to Sami Khedira.
The Real Madrid midfielder was left in a pained heap, but he was soon back to the fore, firing in a shot which Michalis Sifakis, the Greek goalkeeper, spilt at the feet of Andre Schurrle. The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder put the ball into the net, but the goal was chalked off for offside.
Joachim Loew, the Germany coach, had sprung a surprise by bringing in Schurrle and two other players, Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose, who had yet to start in this competition.
Whether it was squad rotation or to provide a more subtle attacking threat against the anticipated Greek blanket defence, it was a bold move to leave out the likes of Lukas Podolski, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez.
It worked, though. Reus and Schurrle were both prominent in Germany’s first-half dominance, and the former helped himself to a second half goal.
Klose, too, had good reason to want to impress. Having played all three of their pool matches across the border in Ukraine, this was the first chance the striker had had to play in the country of his birth.
According to Manuel Neuer, the Germany goalkeeper, Klose and Podolski, his fellow Pole, had taken great pleasure in translating for their national team colleagues since they have been in Gdansk.
Klose makes a point of not celebrating when he scores goals in international matches against Poland, but, with the co-hosts having long since departed this tournament he did not mind doing so on Polish soil when he scored in the second half.
Phillip Lahm, the German captain, had opened the scoring after 38 minutes, but Greece had proved obstinate opponents until that point. Victory had been anything but a given for the favourites.
Given their deeply-defensive tactics, a comeback seemed highly unlikely but the 2004 champions managed to level after the break.
Samaras scored the only way Greece were going to get a goal - a lonely break via a counter attack. He bundled the ball past Neuer from a cross by Dimitris Salpingidis, the busy forward.
Aspirations of a shock comeback were quickly scotched, however, when Khedira volleyed a powerful second for the Germans.
They were rampant from there on, with Klose and Reus quickly following up to seal the outcome in their side’s favour.
The Greeks still had time to grab a late consolation from their trip to Poland. Salpingidis, who had not shaved during the competition for luck, struck from the penalty spot in the final moments following a handball.
Her presence in the stands may have aroused suspicion for many among the opposing support. But this result also proved one thing other than the inevitability of a Germany win over Greece: Chancellor Angela Merkel remains a lucky charm for the national team.
[ @SprtNationalUAE ]
& Paul Radley
[ @PaulRadley ]